Bad Times, Good Memories 01 Aug 14

Bad Times, Good Memories

Photos and Story by Gordy Jones

The late Harmon Killebrew and his pal, Tony Oliva, at work in Fort Myers.

We’re past the halfway mark of another disappointing Twins season, and I am at a loss for words. I like to keep my column upbeat, interesting, and fun.  Instead of telling you the negative stuff that you already know about, I like to find positive content behind-the-scenes that you don’t know about. Lately, the Twins have not been upbeat, interesting, or fun.

But some great numbers came out of the success of the All-Star Game. For example:

The Twins and Major League Baseball donated $8,575,800 to local charities.

Almost 11.5 million fans watched the game being played at Target Field. The game was viewed in 223 countries.

More than 120,000 people attended the game and related events at Target Field in a three-day span.

Almost 115,000 attended the All-Star FanFest.

Harmon Killebrew addressing the participants at his golf event.

The Twins were fantastic hosts, but now it’s time to concentrate on the boys on the field, and at least make the team competitive. We need Joe Mauer to come back, stay healthy, and be productive at the plate. Ricky Nolasco needs to pitch like he’s capable of pitching. Brian Dozier has been a bright spot on defense, but his bat has gone quiet. Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong, even down on the farm. Byron Buxton has been hurt most of the season, along with several other prospects.

To get myself out of a funk when the Twins are not playing well, I try to remember the good times I’ve had around this game, and the wonderful friends I have made. I think about the ’87 and ’91 World Series championships.

I think about watching the Twins on a black & white TV with my late father, and cheering for Harmon Killebrew. Then I remember years later, as an adult, when one of Harmon’s assistants asked me if I’d photograph his charity golf events. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, and

Bill Mazeroski, Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett at their Hall of Fame Ceremony.

became great friends with Harmon, who was one of the kindest people on earth, and his wife, Nita. I’ll never forget one of the first Christmases after my dad passed away, the phone rang. I picked it up, only to hear Mr. Killebrew’s gentle voice: “Gordy, this is Harm. I was in town on some business and decided to extend my stay, and celebrate the holiday in Minnesota.”  It was a small, intimate gathering at his hotel, with good food and drink, but more importantly, a lot of fun and warmth. I think my dad was smiling from above as we celebrated.

Another great memory is being at baseball headquarters — the MLB offices in New York City — to license my book, “The Baseball Guy.” It was a magical day with lots of surprises. As I entered their building at 245 Park Avenue, a man asked me my name. He found it on a list, and then said in deep professional voice, like that of the Allstate guy: “Gordy Jones! Welcome to Major League Baseball. We’ve been expecting you.”  Then I was escorted up to see the MLB legal staff. They said that they loved my book, and gave me a license on the spot.  After signing papers and taking a little tour, I went across the street to have a celebratory beer, and ended up selling a couple of bar patrons advance copies of my book. 

I also like to reminisce about the second week of August in 2001. I was invited by Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett to attend their Hall of Fame induction at Cooperstown, and to photograph it for them. The ceremony was good, but the parties and the people were amazing.

Tony Oliva posed next to his statue at Target Field.

 

Winfield, Killebrew, Oliva and Puckett celebrating at the country club in Cooperstown.

One of my other favorite Twins memories took place two years ago. Tony Oliva approached me and explained that he is honored that the Twins had erected a statue of his likeness at Target Field, but sad because he didn’t have a nice photo to show friends and family in Cuba. I agreed to photograph him next to his statue the following day. When I met him the next day, he was wearing a suit and tie. He looked very nice, but I told him I thought he should put on his Twins pinstripes like they used on his statue. We borrowed a bat from Justin Morneau, and I posed Tony to match his statue. At the age of 70-something…it looks like Tony could still play, if not for the bum leg.

I’m glad I have so many great baseball memories, because I’ll need them to get through the rest of this season. But that’s the beauty of baseball: there are more great memories to come!